Read this New York Time's article about scientific skeptic James Randi and answer the following questions:
1. After spending three weeks discussing impostor narratives and after reading about Randi's story, what conclusions can you draw regarding the relationship between impostors and their audience? What do you think are some of the conditions that make imposture possible? Use examples from this article.
2. Think of another title for this article that uses the word impostor.
After watching and discussing the film, read the following reviews and write a comment saying which one you agree the most with and why.
A carrot cake can sometimes not taste like a carrot cake, even though it does look like a real one.
Think out of the box, will that taco be a real taco?
Can you tell us what these delicious foods are?
(The recipes that we prepared were taken from the website "Taste of Home"
Taglines for this movie by our class members:
Stamp out the swindlers. (Anna)
Plan in a scam, you never know. (Kimmy)
A crime as organized as your stamp collection. (Ben)
Don’t judge a stamp until you forge ahead. (Soobeen)
A full house always beats a pair. (Gregor)
A story of stamps that will make you go postal. (Aidan)
Project for the last portion of today’s class. Choose one of the following prompts:
1. Write an analytical comment about the Mind-Body problem in this episode. What view of this philosophical problem is at stake in “Turnabout Intruder.” You can use the following encyclopedia entry as your theoretical background: http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/dualism/#MinBodHisDua
2. Write an analytical comment about the impersonation of someone from the opposite sex in this episode. What are some of the strengths and weaknesses of the way the male/female impersonations are characterized by the director and scriptwriter, and performed by the actors?
3. Write a short story or a poem based on the theme of life-energy transfer.
4. Create an art piece based on the idea of being an impostor through a life-energy transfer procedure.
5. Draw a diagram of the life-energy transfer.
Answer two of the following questions from your classmates:
1. Was pretending to be a woman the best choice that Daniel could have made? What other paths could he have taken? (Ben/Gregor)
2: What skills were necessary for Daniel to pull of this act? What flaws led to his downfall? (Ben/Soobeen)
3. How many impostors are there in the movie?
4. Why does "Mrs.Doubtfire" do all these things to look like a woman? Do you think he's successful? (Jason)
5. Daniel becomes more responsible after he becomes Mrs. Doubtfire. Why didn't he show this responsibility before and changed the way to teach children after becoming Mrs. Doubtfire? (Kimmy)
6. What makes Daniel being successful as a good babysitter? Why do the children like Mrs. Doubtfire even before they know Mrs. Doubtfire is their father? (Kimmy)
7. Was Daniel (or Mrs. Doubfire) the only impostor in the film? Were there impostors in the Hillard’s marriage? Was Stu always genuine? (Aidan)
8. As the judge seemed to believe, could Daniel’s actions as Mrs. Doubfire have been related to a mental disorder such as the Chameleon’s? Or was his motive something different? (Aidan)
9. Does Daniel succeed in being a part of his family again as Mrs. Doubtfire? (Soobeen)
10. Mrs. Doubtfire was just another stranger who came to babysit the children. How do you think this was possible? (Soobeen)
11. Even if Daniel wears make up, I believe that Miranda could still recognize him because they had been living for so long, but she did not. What is the most important thing that Daniel did to successfully deceive Miranda and his family? (Penelope)
12. When someone pretends to be a person who never exists in the world, it is difficult to make up tons of stories for that person when people are asking about the person’s past. It is also difficult to pretend to be someone that exists, because they have to memorize those things that did happen to the person. Which one is more difficult? (Penelope)
Discuss the following questions with your group. Then choose one and answer individually.
1. In "Smoke Gets in Your Eyes," the 1st episode of Season 1, Don Draper says the following during a meeting with the Lucky Strike's executives:
"Advertising is based on one thing: happiness. And you know what happiness is? Happiness is the smell of a new car [...] It's freedom from fear. It's a billboard on the side of the road that screams with reassurance that whatever you are doing is okay. You are okay."
Considering that not only does Don Draper lead a double life but he also is an impostor who is living someone else's life, what kind of social commentary is Mad Men making in this scene? In other words, what is the show saying about individuality and authenticity in a society that is ruled by marketing and advertising?
2. In "The Hobo Code," the 8th episode of Season 1, Bertram Cooper makes a reference to Ayn Rand's Atlas Shrugged and suggests that certain similarities between himself and Don Draper are described in that book: "You are a productive and reasonable man and in the end completely self-interested. It's strength. We are different, unsentimental about all the people who depend on our hard work." Based on the two episodes you watched and what you know about Don's character, would you agree with Cooper's assessment?
3. In that same 8th episode, what do you think is the significance of the scene in which the young Dick Whitman talks with the stranger who comes to his house and finds out about the hobo code? How can you relate Dick's discovery of the gatepost mark that indicates a dishonest man lives in that house with the preceding scene, in which Don wakes up his son to tell him "I will never lie to you"? What's the significance of Dick being declared an "honorary bum" by the man? That man has no home, do you think Don does?
With your group, answer the following questions about this story:
1. Why do you think people told Juan that "the worse immigration officers in the U.S. were the ones of Mexican descent"? (p.2)
2. What are the implications of Juan's imposture in terms of his identity as a Mexican-American or Chicano?
3. What parts of his true identity is Juan able to fake and what parts isn't he?
4. How many impostors are there in the story? Who do you think is the biggest of all?
We chose to research Cassie Chadwick due to the complexity and success of her largest con. We were very interested by her life story and found ourselves drawn into the excitement that followed her.
Cassie Chadwick was born Elizabeth Bigley on October 10, 1857 in Eastwood, Ontario to Dan and Annie Bigley. She was known as a child for daydreaming and telling lies. By the age of 14 she had already been arrested for passing worthless checks to various merchants. In 1882 she was first married to Dr. Wallace S. Springsteen while under the alias Madame Lydia DeVere and working as a fortuneteller. Their marriage was published in the Plain Dealer and this led her sister and various trades-people to the home of Dr. Springsteen, where they demanded he pay for the debts that his wife had accumulated. Outraged he paid her debts and threw her out of his house, filing for divorce 11 days after they were married.
In 1883 she once again claimed to be a clairvoyant and, this time as Madame Marie LaRose, she met a farmer from Ohio named John R. Scott. They were soon married. Under her next alias Cassie Hoover she opened a brothel where she met Dr. Leroy Chadwick. The two were married in 1897 and he (unknowingly) fathered her son Emil Chadwick.
She began her biggest scan later that year, claiming to be the illegitimate daughter of Andrew Carnegie the wealthiest bachelor in America. She told this to an acquaintance of her husband, who took her to see Carnegie, and during her visit she just spoke to the housekeeper. When she emerged from the house she dropped a piece of paper which was a promissory note for 2 million dollars with Carnegie’s signature. The information of her heritage was leaked and soon banks all over northern Ohio were offering their services to her. She was able to use her fake background for the eight years and received between 10 and 20 million dollars. During her reign she had bought clothes to fit 30 closets, diamond necklaces, and a gold organ, she was also nicknamed the Queen of Ohio.
Her downfall came in the name of a man named Herbert B. Newton who gave her a loan of $190,000. When he learned of her other loans he revoked the loan and when she could not pay the bank sued her. Cassie fled to New York but was arrested in her apartment at the Hotel Breslin, wearing a money belt containing $100,000. She was put on trial, and Andrew Carnegie attended her trial to see the woman that had conned so much money out of the banks by pretending to be his child.
On March 10 1905 she was sentenced to 14 years in prison and a fine of $70,000. She brought furniture, clothing, and pictures for her prison cell and due to her celebrity status she was allowed to keep her belongings. She suffered a “nervous collapse” in September 1907, which left her blind. She died on October 10, 1907 at the age of 50.
Cassie's house at Euclid Avenue
An artistic interpretation of Cassie's psychic agency by Ben Taylor
"Femme Fatale" Dun and Bradstreet, Inc. D & B Reports; Jul/Aug 1992; 40, 4; ProQuest Research Librarypg. 47.
The Ultimate Book of Impostors
‘Count’ Victor Lustig was born in 1890 in what is now the Czech Republic to an upper class family. He was fluent in five languages and started out with small cons throughout Europe and would be arrested 45 times. In 1920, he left for America and carried out various scams, his most successful was his Romanian Box that he promised could perfectly duplicate a $100 bill in six hours. He would sell the boxes for as much as $46,000 and escape as the victims waited for the machine to keep printing.
Lustig was one of the only men in history to successfully scam Al Capone and live. The Count asked Capone for $50,000 to invest in a scam that would double his money in sixty days. After the two months had passed, he simply returned with the money claiming the scam had failed. He even received a reward afterwards for being so honest.
When he came back to Paris in 1925 he had set his sights even higher. At this time many Parisiens considered the Eiffel Tower a burden because of the high costs for repairs and maintenance, many believed it would eventually be taken down or relocated. Lustig saw the opportunity and posing as the Minister of Post and Telegraph, sent letters to the biggest scrap dealers in Paris inviting them to the Hotel de Crillon. Andre Poisson was fairly new to the city so the impostor quickly decided to focus on him. He indirectly asked for a bribe to ensure that he believed him. He received a $20,000 bribe plus $50,000 for the scrap metal of the Eiffel Tower, and one hour later he was on his way back to Austria. He soon returned to Paris to give the scheme another try. But, ever cautious, the Count came to suspect that one of the new scrap dealers he contacted had notified the police, so he fled to the United States. Soon, he came back to Paris to give this scam another try, but when one of his new customers reported to the police, he fled to the US. Eventually, he was turned in by his mistress Billy May, and after twelve years in Alcatraz died in a medical center in Springfield.
We chose Victor Lustig because he was one of the greatest con artists of all times and is most famous for selling the Eiffel Tower...twice. He invented a genius scam called Romanian Box, with which he sold fake money printing machines for tons of money. Also he tricked one of the most influential people of his time: Al Capone.
These “Ten Commandments” were attributed to Lustig and could have been the key to his succes:
"The Smoothest Con Man that Ever Lived" http://www.smithsonianmag.com/history/the-smoothest-con-man-that-ever-lived-29861908/?no-ist
"Count Lustig" http://numismatics.org/Exhibits/FunnyMoney2d
Ian Graham, The Ultimate Book of Impostors
As feminists, we are really interested in the female impostors because we want to know more about how Mata Hari could do what she did and what she suffered in order to make this great imposture. Even though she was an impostor, she was still a representative of those females who managed to obtain money and reputation by themselves.
Mata Hari, a spy of Germany, lived in France as a dancer and social butterfly. She was an impostor who provided the information of France to Germany during World War I. With her made-up story, Mata Hari deceived the people in France into thinking that she was a temple dancer, which allowed her performances to win great reputation. After obtaining reputation, she started to blend in with the rich people and the officers in France. Mata Hari benefited from her beautiful appearance and wonderful skills of tufthunting so that she could get military information for Germans. She was accused to be a spy in 1917, which led to her death for committing treason.
The most important thing she could do to succeed was to go to a country where nobody knew her. She didn't have to pretend to be someone. She could be everyone she wanted. The only thing she needed to do was change her name and her life experience. She named herself Mata Hari, which is the name of a dancer from Indian. She moved to Paris, a place where none will know her. Her dance made her become famous in society. She had a lot of fans and some relationships with the military officers and governors. She could get the intelligence easily from the officers and the governors.
One thing that really needed to know was to be a double spy for France and Germany.
It’s so hard to believe that a woman could be a double spy for two countries.
The Ultimate Book Of Impostors
Mata Hari Dutch dancer and spy
Written by: The Editors of Encyclopædia Britannica
Mata Hari BY Denise Noe
In 200 words, compare Bart Layton’s documentary THE IMPOSTER and Jorge Luis Borges’ short story “The Improbable Impostor Tom Castro.”
Creative writing. Choose one of the following:
1. The letter Tom Castro wrote to Lady Tichborne
2. "How to be a good impostor," a recipe by Ebenezer Bogle
3. "Roger Charles Tichborne, alias Tom Castro, meets Arthur Orton's old sweetheart," a play in one act
Answer at least two of these questions:
1. How many impostors and ways of imposture are there in the movie? Elaborate.
2. In a conversation with Carl, Frank says that the reason the Yankees always win is not because of Mickey Mantle but because the other team can’t take their eyes off the pinstripes. What does this say about the way success and upper mobility are achieved in America?
3. How does the following quote relate to this film:
"Impostor cases show that authenticity, the concept that is vital in identity formation, is a construct based on stereotypical markers of language, behavior and dress" (Rosenthal, Caroline and Stefanie Schäfer Eds. Fake Identity, p. 11).
4. A common thread in impostor's narratives is that in order for the imposture to be successful there needs to be an audience of people who validates it. How does this play out in the movie? At what point and how does Frank start to succeed in fooling people?
5. The relationship between Frank and his father is central to the movie. Explain the role of the impostor within this relationship.
6. How does the soundtrack reinforce the impostor's theme in this film?
1. An impostor is someone who does…
2. An impostor is someone who doesn’t…
3. I felt like an impostor when …
4. If I were to be an impostor, I would be … because …